Southern California fastpitch leader Robert Hernandez to retire

Written by Bob on July 9th, 2014

HernandezRobert.3lr SCIFL President and NAFA Pacific Coast Vice President Robert Hernandez, right, presents David Dziengel of Goring Lawn Care (Minn.) his NAFA A-Major All-World award during the 2010 NAFA World Series in Des Moines and West Des Moines, Iowa. Hernandez served as the World Series Tournament Director. Photo By BOB OTTO

“He is very dedicated and involved and gives fastpitch 110-percent.” – Lou Enriques

ANAHEIM – Someone had to step up to the plate, so Robert Hernandez did.

In 2007, he saw the alarming decline of men’s fastpitch teams in Southern California. Something had to be done to reverse the trend. So he took on a most ambitious project – helping to start a new league.

This new league, the Southern California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL), was a success from the beginning. Up to 16 teams compete, along with an age 40-older Masters Division.

“Doing a startup was tough,” said Hernandez, who became the league’s president, master league supervisor, and tournament director. “But the first year went well with very few hiccups.”

His ambitions for the league soon went higher.

    SCIFL AND NAFA JOIN FORCES

He aligned the SCIFL with the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA). The organization appointed him Pacific Coast Vice President.

Why the affiliation with NAFA? Especially since the prior nine years he was the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Southern California Adult Commissioner overseeing adult softball programs.

A troubling trend triggered the move.

“I had some great times with the ASA,” he said. “But slowpitch was becoming a priority for them.”

So the ASA’s loss was (fastpitch-only) NAFA’s gain. Hernandez’s work on the west coast and in running NAFA World Series tournaments is much appreciated by NAFA Executive Director Benjie Hedgecock.

He applauds Hernandez’s drive in helping NAFA grow; his efforts to expand the Masters Division in eastern and western U.S.; and his leadership skills.

“Robert is one of the most well respected directors in men’s fastpitch,” said Hedgecock. “He has been a great leader and an awesome World Series tournament director. His intelligence and passion are unmatched. He is one of the best people in our sport.”

    FULL CIRCLE FASTPITCH CAREER

Hernandez came into the sport as a player in 1990. Once he got a taste of the underhanded game, he loved it.

Throughout his 24 years in fastpitch, Hernandez has done it all: as a player, manager, president, and tournament director.

But now, Hernandez says, it’s time to step aside. Time to enjoy some of life’s leisures he sacrificed for the betterment of fastpitch.

“I want to spend time with my family, especially my wife Joanne,” he said. “We have so many vacations we want to take, but a tournament or meeting has always been in the way. And softball always used up my vacation time from work.”

    STEPPING ASIDE

On Dec. 31, he will officially retire from fastpitch and as president of the SCIFL. But in handing off the baton to incoming SCIFL president Jesse Ortiz, he assures that his advice and counsel is just a phone call away.

“I will be able to assist,” he said. “I will help out as much as I can, or how much they want.”

Hernandez is confident he’s leaving the SCIFL in good hands with Ortiz.

“Jesse doesn’t want to see the game die, and he is willing to sacrifice playing time and take the reins to run the league,” Hernandez said. “His organizational skills in his (career) will help him get up to speed with running the league.”

lasvegas2014 The Las Vegas Road Trip annual men’s fastpitch tournament is one of Robert Hernandez’s crowning achievements. The tournament drew teams from throughout the U.S. and Canada. Contributed Photo

    LAS VEGAS ROAD TRIPS

Hernandez’s fastpitch deeds are many. There’s his SCIFL and NAFA work, of course. But his imprint extends much farther. He led the drive to start a major west coast fastpitch tournament that draws teams from throughout North America to Las Vegas, the host city.

He christened his tournament the “Las Vegas Road Trip.” This past April marked the seventh anniversary of the event. And he’s justifiable proud.

“We went from 19 teams in 2008 to 37 teams,” he said. “It has gotten better every year.” (In 2014, SCIFL teams won the AA / AA-Major and A division titles.)

He’s also proud of the SCIFL’s Master’s Division that has grown from four to 11 teams; he’s pleased that Southern California teams are well represented at the NAFA World Series. Several of the SCIFL teams have won NAFA World Series championships.

    AN OLYMPIC MEMORY

And he’s delighted to have received a very special invitation.

“The highlight for me was being invited to be a scorekeeper at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Greece,” he said. “I was actually able to make two trips there; one for the test event, and then the games themselves. It was a blast.”

Hernandez is an innovator, and a leader. But no man is an island. Helping hands made his job easier.

    SO MANY TO THANK

He thanks the Smalling family – Cecillo, Cecillo, Jr., and Eric, and Mario Ramirez of the Balboa team for erecting the ballpark fences for league play.

A stickler for accurate statistics, he thanks Sylvia Issac (who retired in 2013), and Jan Tokocheck for being precise scorekeepers since 2002. He appreciates umpire Pete “Sarge” Davis, and NAFA tournament director Bob Chapel (president of the West Coast Fastpitch Association) for their invaluable service at various tournaments.

But one special person stands out that Hernandez has always been grateful to.

“Lou Enriquez has helped me from the start 18 years a go,” he said. “He always had my back.”

The two men have known each other since their playing days. When Hernandez took up leadership roles in the ASA and NAFA, Enriquez was there to help any way he could.

    HARD TO REPLACE

He saw how Hernandez ran the league and tournaments. It will be a challenge to replace him, he said.

“He will be missed and hard to replace,” said Enriquez, who plays for the Colton Dirtbags. “He is very dedicated and involved and gives fastpitch 110-percent. He did everything it entails to run tournaments. No one will be as dedicated and hard working 24-7 for fastpitch as Robert.”

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